Saturday, February 27, 2016

Campfires - a picture post

We don't have a lot of campfires on our trips. We prepare for them. We have fire starter, multiple lighters, and a great saw. On our first couple of trips together we carried (okay, LT carried) some firewood purchased from the front gate. But the more we get into a rhythm of travelling together, the less we bother with campfires. On our longest trip of 7 days last year we only had a couple. It was September and a lot of the sites were picked pretty clean.

I generally don't cook over a fire. However we make an exception for pizza and cinnamon buns. Both recipes have yeast dough involved, setting a pot of the dough next to the fire on a flat rock is an excellent way to speed up that process. 

Here are some pictures of the campfires we've had:

Starting the fire - LT has a technique...
Cinnamon buns being put on the fire to cook
And...they're done! 
Fires are good for drying shoes
And smoke keeps the bugs away, or maybe it was the shoes
They enhance a spectacular sunset
Uh-oh a burn hole from the flying sparks

Grand Lake interesting fire pit
Picture proof of LT's carrying of the firewood all day - Opalescent Lake
It's good camping etiquette to leave behind some dry wood for the next crew coming through

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Critters and creatures and reptiles, oh my! - a picture post

I'm not great at catching wildlife pictures on our trips. If only I had a picture of the eagle we saw last fall! We're experiencing the wild as we come across it, which is really the way to do it. Being in a canoe my camera is often in a dry bag sitting behind me on the floor of the canoe. Trying to wrangle all that into position to catch a magnificent, strong eagle just isn't happening. I will carry my smaller camera in a Ziploc bag in the front pocket of my life jacket. But that can take a bit of time to get out, focus and snap the picture as well. 

My other whiny excuse is that I don't have a great telephoto lens. I think that is an essential tool to get those great animal and bird photos I see posted online from other Algonquin Park enthusiasts. This coming season I might have access to more pictures as LT starts to use the new GoPro he got for Christmas. 

In the meantime, here are some of the different wildlife we've captured in pictures:
A raft of loons, I never tire of seeing them
Osprey nest with birds perched over on the right
Merganser duck taking off
Blue heron
A frog hanging out at the top of Stacks Falls
A chipmunk who bit my finger right after this was taken (it's not his fault my finger looked like a pistachio nut)
Magnificent Moose!
Not a bear, but bear scat - I'd rather see that than the bear that left it!
Not a beaver, but a beaver's home
Snake skin
We got severely harassed by an island full of seagulls on Cedar Lake once. But we see those birds so often in the city I wouldn't think of taking their picture.

We've also seen, but not photographed, snakes (I've seen TWO!), beavers, otters, crows, that majestic eagle, turtles, red squirrels, slugs, minnows and lots and lots of mosquitoes, deer flies and black flies!

Probably the most surprising animal behaviour we've seen is a swimming chipmunk 10+ meters from shore. We witnessed that twice on the same day in very different lakes. No word of a lie. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

2015 Ottawa Outdoor and Adventure Show

Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm almost a whole year late with this post. The 2015 Outdoor Show in Ottawa took place in March. But it's February 2016 and there's no chance of launching a canoe anywhere near here for the next 4 months. So I have to talk about something canoe-worthy. I promise that the post for the show for 2016 will be done in a more timely fashion. After all, this blog wasn't in existence last March. Right? Right!

The show was held at the EY Centre near the airport. There's lots of parking at this venue and it's kind of in the middle of nowhere. But they still charge you for parking. Plus the entry fee into the show. Still it's worth it to drool over the canoes, to check out the vendors, and to watch the demos in the pool.

An exhuberant Kevin Callan
This year there was a special display for Bill Mason. His daughter, Becky, is an active participant in the show, giving lots of paddling demos in the pool. One of Bill's favourite canoes was on display. An aluminum Grumman canoe. It weighs about 85 pounds. The canoe was being auctioned off online during the spring. It was set up with a monitor showing Bill's famous movie, Waterwalker. 

As I looked at the display I had to touch his canoe. It brought back a lot of memories for me. I had a friend with one and we did some paddling together. We never did any canoe camping with it. It would have been pretty heavy to portage. I did portage it once, carrying it from the house to the river in Wakefield. Ah, but I was much, much younger then. 

This is also the same canoe that tipped me into the frigid waters in April one year. Touching it certainly gave me chills. Memories are strong.

In the back corner of the salon there were various presentations given by such luminaries as Kevin Callan. He's always entertaining to listen to. He certainly imparts the feeling that if he can do it, you can do it too, with his self-deprecating humour. There was a woman there who had done a major kayaking trip and he called her out of the audience to share some of the things she'd learned on her long journey. She was also giving a presentation later on.

Keen Footwear was one of the vendors and Kevin had a few of their keychains that he tossed into the audience before his talk. LT caught one and gave it to me!
We were still in a position of being canoe-less. I kept nudging LT to look at the canoe displays. It was obvious that he'd been doing some research before the show and he had a pretty good idea about what kind of canoe he'd eventually buy. He didn't see it happening for a couple more years though. Within another month we'd have a brand new canoe in our possession.

I checked out the Boy Scouts' display area. They carry Eureka! products, which we can't get at MEC. I had purchased my air mattress at the show the previous year and was happy with it. This year I was looking for a lightweight chair to replace my Eureka! tripod chair. It was very lightweight and took up almost no space in my backpack. But it's not very comfortable.

Much like Goldilocks, I sat in one chair after another, but did not buy anything. I would end up getting the Rockwater chair at LeBaron's later on in April.

Kevin Callan is an avid user of social media, especially Facebook. People posted some videos of him and Becky at the show on his FB page and LT and I were in the background. Yes, we're minor celebrities now. Very minor. Kevin and Becky were demonstrating how to switch places safely in a canoe. Which was all well and good if you're in a canoe without any other contents. Doing the same thing with all your gear would be a very different matter.

This year the show is being held on March 19th and 20th, 2016. Hope to see you there!

Here's a link to the site that sponsors the show:

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Salton Dehydrator

I've been using a Salton Dehydrator that I purchased at Walmart for about $50 for the last two summers. 

It's been a trusty tool, very essential to our success on our trips. With most of our food dehydrated, our packs are much lighter, our food is delicious and healthy, and we probably save a ton of money.
This stuff ain't cheap!
7-day trip menu
Spiced up chicken (I used canned from Costco)
Fruit Leather
The two baggies hold one jar of sauce
Eggs and ham
I've gotten a lot of use out of my dehydrator and I've had no problem with it. It sits on an apartment-sized dryer in my kitchen. It's next to a window and I have to make sure that the window is closed for optimal function of the dehydrator. I think a breezy, cool day impedes its best performance.

I ordered special liners for my trays. The solid ones are used for the liquids, such as fruit leather and salsa. The other ones are used for items that shrink to a tiny size as they dry out such as blueberries and peas.

I think I might invest in a bigger dehydrator this spring. However, this one has suited me well. Two of my non-camping friends even bought one after hearing about me rave what a great appliance this is. Seriously, pineapple dried in this tastes amazing and you don't have to go camping to appreciate that!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Romancing the Canoe - Happy Valentine's Day!

As the lake waters are firmly frozen and the rivers that openly flow look fearfully cold, on the coldest day of the year so far, last night we were off to an event in Old Chelsea, Quebec, to listen to people talk about canoeing. Such a Canadian thing to do on a romantic holiday!

Here's a link to the event poster: Romancing the Canoe

It was organized by Becky Mason and Reid McLachlan in support of an artists' co-operative in Chelsea, La Fab. It was a sold-out event and people were gathering in the church well before we got there 45 minutes early. We got great seats, it's a small venue, so most seats were pretty good. They had some beer and wine for sale in a side room and everyone seemed to know everyone else.

Eventually it got started and after a lovely introduction by Becky, Wally Schaber spoke first. He talked about his book, The Last of the Wild Rivers, which is about the Du Moine River that runs into the Ottawa above Des Joachims. He had slides with various pictures from his book. He's been in the outdoor business for his whole life. He started Black Feather Wilderness Adventures that did excursions and canoe rentals on the river. He also founded Trailhead here in Ottawa. When he sold the business in 2012, the Du Moine portion of the business was abandoned by the new owners and the Wolf Lake Algonquin First Nations has taken it up to run as their own business now. As it should be.

The main point of his talk is that we need to ensure we keep the Du Moine River and watershed as it is now, the last wild river. By wild river he means that there are no hydro dams, no real access by extensive roadways, no development of hotels, or other attractions and that all people who come to visit the river, do so with respect and appreciation for this wilderness and the Algonquin people that have lived here for centuries. 

He talked about the history of the river as well as told some tales of current trips on the river.
Wally's book
There was a musical interlude after which door prizes were drawn (great prizes too, although I went home only with books and signatures).

Roy MacGregor also talks about the Du Moine River in his book. He touched upon a lot of the stuff he wrote about canoes in his book. 

Roy's book
Roy talked about how he was involved with CBC on a panel to determine what the seven wonders of Canada were a few years back. His submission was that the canoe was one of Canada's seven wonders. You can find them all over the country, there's no geographical limitation. At first the panel wasn't receptive, then it became much more so afterwards. It won a place in the top seven.

He talked about a story in Canadian history that we rarely hear about. It was an excursion organized by the British to rescue one of their own who was ruling in Kartoum. The Nile excursion entailed sending Canadian voyageurs who would paddle up the treacherous Nile to resuce this man. It was quite the story with a sad ending. He was killed several days before the excursion would have reached him and in the end all was for naught. It's a colourful story, well told.

He mentioned the friendship between Becky's father, Bill and Pierre Trudeau, also in the book. Canoeing cuts across everyone in our culture, it can be enjoyed by all. 

We enjoy our time in nature, canoeing the rivers and lakes, walking in the forests, listening to the loons and the wind through the trees. It's wonderful to add some depth to those feelings, by hearing about the past of the great spaces we enjoy today, and the people that were there before us.

This was a well organized event, heartily enjoyed by all. We all walked out eager to get back in the water again. Although sitting in our frozen cars waiting for them to warm up on such a frigid night, we knew it wouldn't be that soon.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Picture Taking

Even if I didn't have this blog to share pictures, I would still take lots of pictures when I'm out canoe camping. I'm in such a beautiful place, I want to remember every single detail. From every cloudless sky and glass-surfaced lake to even the marshy put-ins. The longer the trip, the more all the details go into your brain and get all jumbled. Was the gorgeous waterfall on the second portage yesterday? Or the last one on the first day? My camera keeps them all in order and I can figure out where all the details were. Which lake had the gorgeous campsite, which pond had the turtles.
Loon in early evening on Lake Clemow
I have a great Nexus cell phone that takes really nice pictures. It doesn't come on trips with me. It doesn't even come in the car in case sitting in a hot car over 4 days melts it. There's no power source to charge my phone in nature and I'm not going to buy one. I've drenched, and lost, two cell phones, both in outdoor situations. One while bike riding home from work through a heavy rainstorm and one while walking a half marathon again through a heavy rainstorm. For me nature and cell phones are a bad combination. But I have a lot of pictures of Mr. Winston on my cell phone!
No photos please!
I have a Canon Rebel digital SLR I bought to take on a trip to Old Havana, Cuba. It's a good camera and I should take more time to figure out how to use it better. 
Old Havana - old car

My Rebel!
This camera comes on some trips. It's big, bulky, heavy and I sincerely don't want to get it wet. It travels in its own dry bag.  On travel days it is mostly out of my backpack (in the dry bag) and occasionally gets dropped in the canoe. I think I need to get the lens checked. I also need a zoom lens to really get the good moose pictures. It's on a wishlist!

Santa can you hear me? Can you see me?
I only have a single battery for this camera. It lasts pretty good though. I charge it up before going on the trip. It takes some great pictures.

Amazing beach in Iceland - sand and rocks are all black
My go-to dependable camera is a Canon PowerShot. It's an oldie, a gift from 2010. The definition isn't nearly the same as a newer camera, but it has some advantages. 

My trusty mini camera
Believe it or not it survived being completely submerged when it fell out of my pocket into a lake. (See here for the full story.) I grabbed it and removed both the battery and the SD card. I didn't even lose a picture! But it did need a good week to dry out and that was the end of any more pictures on THAT trip (only day 2). The key is I don't care if something happens to it. Which seems to give it some sort of magical power, like a superhero!
Pond where I dunked the PowerShot, one of the last shots that trip
I carry the smaller camera in a Ziplock bag and it fits in the front pocket of my life vest. I usually carry a couple of extra batteries for this camera.
The camera isn't in my pocket because it's being used to take the picture....d'oh!
I am motivated to take more pictures now that I have the blog to display them. I'll take pictures of things that normally might not be of interest to my friends and family as I bore them with trip details. They really only want to see the animals and I've not quite perfected my ability to capture wildlife with my camera.
Potty talk? Click here to read the full story